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Japan's prime minister denies report on agreement

Related story: Thousands rally against Futenma plan

GINOWAN, Okinawa — Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Saturday shot down a Washington Post story that said Japan was close to accepting major portions of a 2006 agreement to move Marine air units from this urban center to rural northeast Okinawa.

In a nationally televised news conference, Hatoyama said going along with the plan to build a new air facility on Camp Schwab — on the Henoko Peninsula and reclaimed land in Oura Bay — was unacceptable.

"The report is not true," Hatoyama said. "We cannot accept the existing plan."

He said putting the air base on land reclaimed from the ocean would harm the marine environment.

On Sunday, however, Kyodo News, citing unnamed sources, said Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa was pushing for accepting a modified plan to build a single runway on Camp Schwab.

That seemed to be consistent with part of the Washington Post report that, also citing unnamed U.S. and Japanese government sources, stated Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada met with U.S. Ambassador John Roos and outlined an alternate plan for closing the air station that involved accepting most of the 2006 plan.

Several Japanese media outlets reported Sunday that Okada admitted he met with Roos but denied he proposed accepting most of the 2006 agreement.

Hatoyama was swept into office after his Democratic Party of Japan and two junior members of his coalition won a majority of seats in the Lower House election in August. He campaigned on the promise to review the Futenma relocation agreement.

He said he has staked his political career on settling on an alternate plan by the end of May and is facing pressure to resign before the Upper House election this summer if he does not succeed.

U.S. officials maintain the 2006 plan is the only viable option that would both reduce the presence of U.S. forces on Okinawa and maintain security in the region.


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